edited by Chris N
[significant supplementary info by this editor is presented in blue text or in brackets with initials, depending upon the degree of the supplement]
This little excursion comes about, I suppose, because of a sort of challenge from Chris N. Essentially, he threw down the gauntlet and asked what I could make of the Dr. Pepper (1984) and Charles Barclay (1992) Godzilla commercials reviewed elsewhere on this site.
These are not the only commercials in which Godzilla has a role, of course, but they're certainly the most popular and most famous. The others might be harder to find [none of the others that have aired in North America have anything resembling a storyline to them -CN]. I suspect that most of them are in Japanese, or otherwise break the fourth wall.
So, what are these commercials? Check out Chris N's reviews on the commercials
for details on their respective storylines, but essentially, they're pretty similar: The Commercial always
opens with Godzilla rampaging through a city, then something happens. In the
first Dr. Pepper commercial, he comes across a giant can of Dr.
Pepper, drinks it, and wanders away, pacified. In the second Dr. Pepper
commercial, he meets a female version of himself, Newzilla, and after
several attempts finally wins her over with a giant can of Dr. Pepper.
In the third commercial, this one courtesy of Nike Shoes, his rampage is interrupted by a giant Charles Barclay, who challenges him to a game of basketball, after which the two walk off together.
Essentially it's the same formula for each. Godzilla is first presented as 'realistic' and mean, a city destroyer, then something happens which distracts him from his pillaging and mollifies him, ending his reign of destruction. It's a light, engaging commercial formula, relying on iconic images, starting out grim and serious, but then segueing with enough humor to make it memorable.
So, how and where does this fit in with Godzilla continuity? Well, the superficial answer is: not at all. But then, where's the fun of that? The Game, after all, is to try and get it all to fit in plausibly together. And if we're wedging different Godzilla or Toho or even kaiju-films into the same continuity, if we can extend the play to video games...then why not try for commercials?
What can we make of this?
Well, first off, this isn't the Heisei Godzilla. Rather, this is the Godzilla of the Showa continuity. Is that acceptable?
I think so. The Toho Showa continuity is rooted in a series of movies from 1954 to 1977 [the latter year being when the events of Toho sci-fi film Gorath, took place -CN]. After that, we start the Heisei Era continuity, which runs from 1984 to 1996 (chronologically speaking). So, on this basis one might assume that any commercials issued in 1984 and 1992 should depict the Heisei continuity.
But despite this, there is a counter argument. The Showa continuity extends further into the future than simply 1998. Two Toho movies, The War in Space, set in 1988, and Destroy All Monsters, set in 1999, necessarily suggest that Toho Showa history continues past the time of the movies. A Nintendo video game from 1987, 'Godzilla, Monster of Monsters!', seems to extend the Showa continuity into the mid-21st century. So, this means that in the Showa Toho Universe [STU], there are big blank pages of history, waiting to be written.
What's happening with Godzilla between Terror of Mechagodzilla, set in 1975, and Destroy All Monsters, set in 1999? What's he doing in the 21st century, before or after the events depicted in the video game? I think that we're open to accepting that a particular version of Godzilla may have continued adventures past his run of movies.
So anyway, why do I think that the Godzilla of the commercials is Showa rather than Heisei? Several reasons.
First, this Godzilla seems scaled on Showa rather than Heisei proportions, about 50 meters tall, rather than 100 (a height he had achieved by 1992, as seen in Godzilla vs. King Ghidora).
Second, despite attitude problems, this Godzilla seems far more intelligent and tractable than the more malevolent and animalistic Heisei counterpart. During the course of each commercial, Godzilla starts out relentlessly destroying things...
Which is pretty good Heisei behavior. But then, he stops, he uses tools, drinking from vastly oversized soft drink cans, making offerings, putting on goggles. In two of the commercials, he relates socially to other beings and even engages in play.
The Heisei Godzilla does not play. The Heisei Godzilla, at least in his early phase, doesn't relate to anyone. The Heisei Godzilla definitely doesn't use tools. And most importantly, he doesn't stop attacking for anything or anyone.
The Showa Godzilla, in the meantime, shows a nearly human-level of intelligence, particularly in his later movies, he relates socially to other monsters, and he even engages in play and sparring. Starting as a malevolent monster, the Showa Godzilla evolves steadily, becoming a benign force for good.
The behavior shown in the commercials is far more consistent with the range of behavior shown by the Showa Godzilla.
So, it's official, or semi-official, that this is the Showa boy, notwithstanding his initial bouts of bad attitude.
Now, what's up with the bad attitude anyway? By the time Godzilla reaches the level of intelligence and sophistication that allows him to use tools, play and act sociably, he's no longer rampaging through cities.
Well, true enough. It's possible that Godzilla in these commercials is under some form of control. After all, he's controlled by aliens in Destroy All Monsters. It should be know that kaiju in general are rather frequently controlled by external intelligences, both human and alien. King Kong is controlled briefly by Doctor Hu; Gigan works for both the Seatopians and Nebulans; Muans direct Manda's attack; Megalon is under the control of the Seatopians. The Yog entity controls three different kaiju, a Gezora, a Kamabos, and a Ganime; and King Ghidorah shows up as a pawn of just about every alien out there, including Xians, Simeons, Nebulons, Garogain, and Kilaak. So basically, brain controlling giant monsters is almost eligible to qualify as an Olympic sport by anyone with the right technology.
The long and the short of it is that it is entirely possible that in these commercials, Godzilla has come under the control of some alien force, and the commercials depict his breaking that control and returning to his peaceful self. Perhaps it's just the Kilaaks, doing trial runs for their effort a few years later in Destroy All Monsters.
But there's another explanation that I like somewhat better.
Godzilla is just pissy. Think about this. Godzilla, towards the end of his Showa career, from, say, 1971 battling Hedorah, including hanging out with Zone Fighter, to his final duels with Mechagodzilla, comes across as a remarkably intelligent beast, perhaps nearly human in some terms.
But emotionally, Godzilla has a serious childish streak. In his mid-sixties movies, Godzilla is selfish and arrogant, perfectly indifferent to humanity's plight, and often drawn in against his will. But even when benign, he shows childish characteristics. He dances for joy, he makes gestures, he acts out.
So...Perhaps Godzilla is simply having occasional tantrums. Consider that, obviously, he's got to be fairly bored out there on Monster Island. Sometimes he just feels like roaming around. Humanity does something to cheese him off, like trying to confine him to the island with a force field, or trying to mind control him...and it's just not good.
Even the benign Showa Godzilla is a 160 foot tall, several thousand ton, radioactive behemoth, a reptilian, dinosaurian predator with all the instincts and behavioral programming this biology implies, as well as a primitive atavistic reptilian hindbrain beneath his higher functions. The surprise would be that Godzilla didn't occasionally throw a tantrum.
Which takes us to what happens in each commercial. His reign of destruction is interrupted each time, not by appealing to his better nature...but by distracting him. That's not just a little suggestive of an emotionally childish creature.
Distraction, by the way, might be the name of the game in dealing with kaiju
in the '80's and '90's. Bear with me on this. I believe that the commercials
are set in the time periods in which they're shot and released, by the way.
So we're catching glimpses of the Showa Godzilla, not in the '60's or '70's, but in the Showa world of 1985 and 1992, respectively. I'll get into reasons for that later. But for now, we're talking distractions.
One thing you'll notice about the various encounters with Godzilla and other dai kaiju is that the military response is often ineffective. Hell, it's often outright disastrous. Through several early movies, the Japanese Defense Force gives Godzilla everything they've got, and he just kicks ass. Not only does he not back down or get driven off, but if anything, he becomes even more furious and dangerous, even more committed to and focused upon destruction.
It's pretty much the same for other kaiju. Mothra, Rodan, Varan, King Ghidorah, Megalon, Gigan, etc… they pretty much all kick military ass. There are successes, of course. The Atragon super-submarine puts paid to Manda, and Gaila the Gargantua gets his tail kicked by maser tanks. But within the various Tohoverses, these are pretty rare. Outside of Tohoverses, the military is occasionally effective, but mostly beleaguered and quite often on the run.
The bottom line is that military force, throughout the '50's and '60's, seems to be a poor solution to kaiju attacks. Often the creatures prove to be impervious to military force, and thus turns out to be largely useless. As often as not, in fact, it is worse than useless. Military attacks only serve to enrage the creatures, heightening their levels of violence and aggression. Military attacks often wind up focusing the monsters' attention on the location or city being defended, exponentially raising the level of potential damage and devastation. Their attention is concentrated, making them ever harder to divert or detour, so that instead they become fixed on their path. Instead of peacefully passing through a city, the excited and angry kaiju go on a rampage.
Of course, there are the collateral issues. What about friendly fire, collateral damage, inadvertent destruction? There's a lot of military firepower flying around, and stray aircraft missiles could wreak havoc on a city. Battles are always fought in or near occupied countryside or urban areas.
Worst of all, even if the military succeeded in killing, injuring, or disabling a kaiju, the solution might turn out to be worse than the problem. What do you do with ten thousand tons of rotting radioactive dinosaur carcass in the middle of Tokyo? How and where do you dispose of hundred-foot mantids or spiders? The blood of the Rhedosaurs was toxic with ancient [and probably mutated] bacteria, and at the end of the movie, its carcass is polluting Coney Island, the bacteria being carried in smoke across the whole of New York City.
We can assume that by the 1970's, governments and cities were figuring out that trying to fight the kaiju with fire was turning out to be a spectacularly bad idea.
What's the solutions? Well, one can always hope or seek out a good kaiju to defend you. This is immensely destructive, but at least it had the advantage of succeeding more often than military force. Another solution would be to keep the kaiju well away from humanity, isolating them on some 'Monster Island.' Which works great, until they decide to leave.
Interestingly, in King Kong vs. Godzilla, we see the glimmers of an answer in relatively peaceful defeats of both Godzilla and Kong. In one scene, Kong, after climbing atop a Japanese government building, is subdued, not by military force, but by a mist of soma berry juice coupled with drums playing a hypnotic chant taken from the native tribe of Farou Island. In other such efforts, there are attempts to lure Godzilla away from civilization with bright lights.
What this and similar efforts have in common is their essential passivity. There is nothing in either to anger or provoke Kong or Godzilla. Instead, their environments are tranquil and empty. There is nothing to draw or concentrate their attention, there is no enemy to draw their ire, no aggressive target to enrage them.
Instead, Kong simply goes to sleep, and Godzilla, out for a stroll, wanders off in some other direction, in each case, sparing a vulnerable city. Without an aggressive focus for his attention, Godzilla's mind wanders and he simply drifts off.
This forms the basis of the '80's and '90's kaiju defense strategies as depicted in the commercials: distraction.
Essentially, they are not directly challenging Godzilla, they're not provoking him, concentrating his attention, stoking his rage, and rendering him ever more single-minded. Instead, Godzilla meets no direct resistance, and without resistance, his attack lacks purpose.
Which then allows the defense forces to divert his attention, and thereby placate his rage, leaving a relatively docile and harmless monster.
The first attempt involves an enormously scaled up can of Dr. Pepper, which somehow magically calms and mollifies the destructive creature. It's worth noting that in the commercial, the city is mainly gray and the can is brightly coloured and shiny. Obviously, it's been designed that way, to catch the eye of the giant kaiju.
Look, no one drinks from 600 gallon cans. If there's a gigantic can of Dr. Pepper standing on a building, then obviously, it's there with one purpose in mind...that Godzilla or some other kaiju should be attracted to and drink from it. A distraction, shifting their purpose from destruction to more benign consumption.
And what's in the can, you may wonder? A moment's thought provides the obvious answer: soma berry juice. Possibly an extract or distilled or diluted drink, but definitely, soma berry juice is in there somewhere.
Why? Because it's been well established in King Kong vs. Godzilla that soma berry juice has an addictive and mildly narcotic effect on kaiju. It attracts the giant octopus as well as Kong, and it's sufficient to put Kong out like a light twice. If it has that effect on both giant cephalopods and giant mammals, it's not unlikely that it has a similar effect on giant reptiles.
Essentially, in the first commercial, Godzilla is distracted from his pillaging by a brightly coloured, shiny, enticingly scented object. He stops rampaging, he drinks from it, and he's mildly tranquilized out of any trace of anger. Tokyo is saved.
The second commercial, also from 1985, plays out similarly, with an oversized, shiny can of
Dr. Pepper. Obviously, however, the 'Dr. Pepper' logo was presented to "real" universe [RU] audiences since Dr. Pepper of the RU sponsored the production of the commercial, and in the "actual" STU events, the giant can was simply plain with incandescent paint…unless, perhaps, the Dr. Pepper company in the STU sponsored the military production of the can, and thought it would be a total P.R. coup to have their corporate logo painted on the surface of the giant can whose production they helped finance.
In the second case, however, Godzilla is not stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice, so a new wrinkle must be added to divert the mighty kaiju.
This is in the form of Newzilla, a female version of Godzilla, who attracts his attention. Again, Godzilla is distracted from his rampage by an effort to woo this new kaiju. At first, he offers gifts, including flowers. Possibly this is destructive if he's uprooting cherry trees to offer her. But it's hardly as destructive as a rampage. She refuses his gifts, until he comes up with the Dr. Pepper. This wins her approval and off they go. It's safe to assume that Godzilla is quickly rendered mildly and happily intoxicated on Soma/Dr. Pepper.
One interesting aspect of this commercial is the character of Newzilla. Obviously, Newzilla is in league with or under the control of humans, as clearly her purpose is to get Godzilla to settle on the giant can of Dr. Pepper.
But beyond that, what is she? Is she 'real?' Or is she some sort of construct? A hologram, or a balloons and levers mock up? A 'mechagodzilla' chasis with a living or lifelike exterior? It's anyone's guess.
She could be real, of course. The 'original' Godzilla was apparently killed by the Oxygen Destroyer. The Godzilla from the subsequent Showa Series movies is either a second beast, or the original somehow reconstituted [this editor's theory leans towards the latter explanation, as I explain in some of my reviews -CN]. Either way allows for a third, feminine version of the Big G, called 'Newzilla.' If there can be two beasts, then there can be a third. If this is a reconstituted Godzilla, then obviously, it's possible that some elements escaped the reconstitution, migrated, mutated, and grew into a 'new Zilla' creature, much as we saw with the Gargantuas.
Newzilla, sadly, but for obvious reasons, appears nowhere else in Godzilla canon. But there are very few revealed Showa Godzilla adventures set after 1985-1992. Destroy All Monsters and the video game 'Godzilla, Monster of Monsters!' are about it. Kaiju are well known for extended periods of dormancy, so perhaps Newzilla was dormant during these adventures. Dormant, or destroyed, or deceased, perhaps. Again, it's anyone's guess.
In any event, Newzilla is a footnote in Godzilla lore, raising more questions than she answers, her existence a puzzle.
Finally, we turn to the 1992 Charles Barclay commercial from Nike Shoes. Once again, Godzilla is on a rampage. But this time, he's distracted by a giant-sized Charles Barclay, about 45 meters in height, who challenges the Toho Titan to a basketball game. Incredibly, Godzilla goes for it, even setting up a 'hoop', and after being knocked into a building, the now calm kaiju walks off with Barclay.
Bizarre? Yes. But arguably, still within the scope of the events and behaviors exhibited within the Toho Showa Universe.
Take the gigantic Barclay, for instance. Barclay is a big guy, but he's no kaiju. Is having a giant Barclay a complete break in logic? Arguably not. In Godzilla vs. Megalon, an android called Jet Jaguar grows temporarily to gigantic sizes. In the TV series Zone Fighter, the Meteor Man, which featured Godzilla and other Toho Showa kaiju, selected Garogain invaders as well as the Zone Fighter frequently grew to gigantic size.
Consequently, there seems to be a well-established, though admittedly strange, technology or physics in the Tohoverses that allows normal-sized creatures to be blown up to kaiju proportions, at least temporarily. Now, I'll freely acknowledge, that is some pretty bizarre and freaky technology. But it's not even restricted to Toho Showa continuity. In the United States, the 50 foot woman, the 30 Foot Bride and the Village of the Giants grew to their stature overnight. So despite the scientific implausibility, the phenomenon is well established.
So, at least in the STU, it's actually feasible that an American basketball star could be enlarged to Godzilla size. But for the love of God, why?
Let's leave that aside for a second. Godzilla plays a game of one-on-one. Yep, that certainly isn't the Heisei Godzilla, who doesn't play well with others. But the Showa Godzilla is much more cooperative. In various movies, the Showa Godzilla teams up with Rodan, Mothra, Anguirus, Jet Jaguar, and King Seesar. In Destroy All Monsters, he leads an entire army of kaiju against King Ghidorah and his Kilaak mistresses. In the Zone Fighter series, Godzilla frequently teams up with the Zone Fighter against the Terro-Beasts of the Garogain.
But more than that, the Showa Godzilla actually 'plays' or engages in mock combat. In both Son of Godzilla and Godzilla's Revenge, Godzilla spends time educating Minya, teaching him to use his atomic breath. In the Zone Fighter series, Godzilla actually spars with Zone Fighter on Monster Island for the purpose of honing each others' combat skills. These incidents, particularly sparring, are particularly impressive. Godzilla is engaging in battle, but it is friendly battle, and it doesn't get out of hand. Godzilla doesn't lose it and try to incinerate his sentai ally.
This tells us that in the STU, Godzilla has enough intelligence and self-control to distinguish between hits taken or given in play, and actual combat. In effect, he's got the capacity to get body checked into a building and not blast a hole through Charles Barclay with his atomic breath. He has the capacity to understand the idea of play, or of playing a game.
Still, this brings us back to why anyone would want to inflate a basketball player to kaiju proportions, and to send him to do a little one-on-one with Godzilla.
Distraction. Look, we've previously noted in this essay that military responses have failed steadily, suggesting that in the Showa Series future of the '80's and '90's, the ticket has not been armed response but distraction and diversionary tactics.
Well, several years later, Godzilla is clearly not falling for the Dr. Pepper dodge anymore. So, a new distraction is necessary.
Barclay is clearly distracting Godzilla. By challenging Godzilla to a little one-on-one, Barclay diverts the kaiju from his rampage and channels his aggression into something that both acknowledge is a peaceful game. Once the game is over with the gigantized Barclay's slam dunk, it's over, and the two walk off side-by-side. Godzilla doesn't return to his rampage, because he understands that after play or mock combat, there is peace. He's been completely sidetracked.
It's quite likely, in fact, that the Charles Barclay of the STU achieved his kaiju-size in the same manner as the various Garogain aliens and Jet Jaguar did…by accruing mass from an extradimensional source, which combined with the strange physics of the STU to enable both animate and inanimate objects to achieve incredible size and mass without collapsing from their own enhanced body weight and volume. It's likely that Charles Barclay, clad in his distinctive basketball uniform, volunteered to be the distraction for Godzilla in this particular instance, and as such, the U.N. allowed him to temporarily partake of the technologically induced mass-accruing process, a process also applied to a basketball for this situation. There could be any number of reasons why Jet Jaguar himself wasn't available to provide this distraction, possibly because the android sentai wasn't programmed with knowledge of any human sport, but simply with martial arts katas, which the military worried may be mistaken for acts of actual aggression by the angry Atomic Titan, so they decided not to go the 'sparring' route for distraction…and Charles Barclay of this reality was the perfect man for the job, becoming a temporary sentai for the good of humanity.
There is one additional detail to the Barclay commercial that is worth some comment. Goggles. Specifically, upon being challenged by Barclay, Godzilla dons goggles.
Where the hell did these oversized goggles come from? Who built them? And why? Obviously, they fit on Godzilla's nonhuman face, so clearly, they aren't simply regular goggles blown up to size. Rather, they must have been manufactured and designed specifically for Godzilla's wear. And Godzilla seems familiar and practiced enough with them that he wears them for the Barclay incident.
This suggests that at some point in the past prior to the Barclay commercial, Godzilla must have needed them. But why? The only conclusion is that at some point, Godzilla must have been in an environment, or fought an enemy employing acidic chemicals or laser blasts, which attacked or endangered his eyes, making the goggles necessary. Remember how Godzilla actually had one of his eyes destroyed by Hedorah's acid sludge during their monumental 1971 imbroglio? It's quite possible that the Big G had a rematch with the smog monster at some point between 1975 and 1992 [possibly in Africa, Mr. Banno?]
And since Godzilla would not normally wear anything, trusting to his own resilience, it is most likely that Godzilla must have encountered the threat or environment at least twice. Once suffering damage or injury, and then after recovering, a second battle with the assistance of goggles ensued, whose merits he learned to appreciate.
Hedorah, of course, emanated highly toxic gases. Other enemies, particularly Gigan and Mechagodzilla, employed lasers or other kinds of beams. But there's no recorded instance in the Showa movies or television of Godzilla being attacked or encountering an environment of this nature. There's also no recorded instance of Godzilla wearing goggles or employing any significant tools.
Thus, neither the goggles nor the incident that must have given rise to them, seems to fit at all in the Showa history from 1954 to 1975. The only explanation can be that the goggles and their incidents must take place after 1975 and the events of Terror of Mechagodzilla. By a similar token, the Dr. Pepper gambit, including the construction of gigantic shiny, bright-coloured, soft drink cans, also seems to take place after 1975. Add to this the obvious continuing evolution in the tactics of distraction and diversion used against Godzilla in each commercial, tactics that were sensible but not fully employed as late as 1975, and the conclusion becomes obvious.
These commercials depict a Showa Toho continuity post-1975. In fact, there's no reason not to attribute them, as with the movies, to their actual years of production. So they obviously occurred in 1985 and 1992, respectively.
There is one reference in the movies which might even support this. In Destroy All Monsters, set in 1999, there is a mention of a typhoon which caused the failure of the Monster Island containment systems and lead to an outbreak. Was this the genesis that lead to the Barclay incident? It's at least entertaining to think so.
I should note that in Destroy All Monsters, the distraction and diversion tactics clearly would not work given that the monsters were acting under alien control. But such tactics were doubtless in use for normal kaiju outbreaks and rampages where the creatures were susceptible to diversion or distraction.
So, as it turns out, the commercials actually provide us with a pair of fascinating and entertaining glimpses into the ongoing history of the Showa Toho Universe, in that hitherto blank area between 1975 and 1999, including glimpses of both Godzilla and his evolving nature, and of the changes in kaiju defense tactics.
Return to Guest Section